“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Mrs. Revathi Roy and Mrs. Preeti Sharma Menon, the fearless women behind Viira Cabs - Mumbai’s first taxi service driven by women, for women – have done just that. What started as a fight for survival, has transformed into a pioneering organization that is helping women from low income groups become financially independent and have a sustainable career as taxi drivers. And giving Mumbai a new, ecofriendly mode of transport.
Preeti speaks about how the journey began, “The concept of lady taxi driver was started by Revathi in 2007. To support her family after her husband’s demise, she decided to do the one thing that came most naturally to her, driving. She launched ForShe, a taxi service for women and became the first lady taxi driver in Mumbai.”
In 2010, by when Revathi had successfully established and eventually handed over the company to investors due to conflict of vision, she met Preeti who had recently sold her human resource consulting firm Synergy. Both the women decided to work together and launch a women’s motor training school and taxi service, Viira Cabs.
Preeti adds, “Our motor school focuses on training women exclusively from low income groups. Viira means brave women, who have been limited to temporary unskilled jobs due to lack of skills and opportunities but have decided to change their lives and that of their families by entering a never before domain and striving for financial inclusion.”
This could not have been cake walk! What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting out? Preeti answers, “The biggest ongoing challenge is that there are no ready women drivers. We have to source, mobilize, train and employ drivers. Secondly, transport is a highly regulated sector so there are licenses, permissions and many other regulatory issues to be dealt with on a regular basis. But what worked for Viira was that Revathi and I synergized our strengths to overcome these challenges.”
Today, motor training at Viira is conducted in modern classrooms with high tech driving simulators and also includes hands on practical workshops. Everything from driving to managing the car and greeting the customers to self-defense is taught here by experienced faculty members, including the founders themselves.
And that’s not all. While most cab services hire drivers on contract, Viira Cabs hires drivers as employees giving them a stable income and an insurance cover. Not just that, the drivers are also taught concepts of saving, planning and self-reliance making them truly independent.
What is the biggest event in your life that has brought you where you are today?
There are many, but Lord Gulam Noon’s angel investment gave us the spring in our steps to make Viira bigger.
What is that one piece of advice you are glad you did not take?
Allowing a strategic investor to come in. In my opinion, it is a disaster as the promoters do not get a chance to crystallize their vision.
Do you think Viira Cabs lose out on a huge market share because it’s just for women?
No, the market is huge and we can barely service the demand, so there is no loss.
How do you see Viira cabs evolving in the future, what more can consumers expect?
We hope to grow to a large fleet, continue providing world class service and using technology to innovate. We have just installed “Tabbie” an online infotainment system in our cabs for customers and hope to enhance entertainment options as we go. Also hope to start online reservations soon.
Viira Cabs currently ply only in Mumbai and proudly boast of a Green fleet – all their cars run on CNG. Reservations can be made on phone by calling 022-61206120.
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